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child using drugs

How to Tell if Your Child is Using Drugs: Warning Signs For Parents

No parent wants to think their child is using drugs. It’s a scary, overwhelming prospect. Many people, when faced with someone close to them using drugs, may struggle with denial at first. Denial isn’t an abnormal response, but when it comes to addiction, it can be dangerous

Facing the truth is hard. Facing reality about a child’s drug use may even seem impossible, but it’s well worth the fight. There is a way out if a child or loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction. Recognizing the problem is the first step. Once you’re aware, you can begin to take appropriate action to obtain quality help.

Signs That a Child or Loved One is Using Drugs

Regardless of the type of drug your child is using, they’ll quickly start showing some signs of addiction. Beyond the health side effects and the physical signs such as red eyes or track marks, your child will likely show symptoms of drug dependency in many other ways. 

  • Changes in mood – has your child gone from outgoing to introverted? Content to depressed? Happy to sullen? Patient to impatient? It’s worth noting that they’re also typical of teenagers. Still, be on the lookout for sudden changes in mood. Even if it’s not drug-related, they could be struggling with mental health issues. 
  • Drastic changes in appearance– has your child dramatically altered the way they dress, lost a lot of weight, or started to develop infections, scars, or other unexplained injuries? If they began wearing long-sleeves even when it’s hot outside, they might be hiding track marks. 
  • Change in friends – has your child switched friend groups? Have they started hanging around people who appear to be involved in unsavory activities? It’s common for teenagers to start hanging out with people way older, usually in their early 20s. 
  • Loss of interest – has your child lost interest in things they once loved? Have they withdrawn from activities that once pleased them? They might even withdraw from social activities like hanging out with friends after school.
  • Financial issues – does your child seem never to have money? Do they have a job, yet are always asking to borrow money? Generally, this behavior could be due to drug use. Addiction can become expensive and lead to unexplained monetary problems.
  • Drug paraphernalia – this is probably the surest sign your child is using drugs. Have you found pipes, straws, baggies, or other drug paraphernalia among their possessions? Fiding drug paraphernalia is a clear sign that drug use has become a problem. 

Is it a Real Problem?

Generally, parents wonder how much concern they should have over teenage drug use, often confusing it the behavior with routine experimentation. The reality is that half of the new drug users are under 18. Remember that teenagers love to experiment, and unfortunately, that includes drugs.

Make sure to have an open conversation about drugs with your children. Experimenting with drugs can be quite dangerous; many of these substances are highly addictive. 

Beware of the triggers around the house as well. For example, close to 40% of teenagers who abuse prescription medications start by taking the pills from their parent’s medicine cabinet

Even if your child swears, they only did it once to try it, beware of the signs of dependence. If your child shows any of the symptoms above, it might become a real problem. Experimenting and playing with addictive substances can quickly turn into a long-term health problem. 

What Do I Do if My Child is Using Drugs?

Generally, the hardest part for parents when they discover their child is using drugs is understanding the treatment options available. As a result, we have put together a family guide to answer these tough questions. When you suspect that your child or loved one has a drug or alcohol problem, here are some specific steps to take.

First, seek out information. What drug(s) is your child using? And what’s the best way to confront them about it? If you’re unsure about how to talk to your child about this, support groups like AA, NA, and Families Anonymous can be a good starting point for information.

After gathering information, the next step is taking action. Fortunately, professional guidance can help you make a rational decision rather than one based on fear. There are many options for treatment ranging from detox and outpatient to partial hospitalization and long-term care.

Do’s & Don’ts for Talking to Your Child About Using Drugs

Having a conversation with your child about using drugs will never be easy. When you choose to confront your child about using drugs, you have to make sure that you do it correctly. Choose an occasion where you’re confident your loved one is not under the influence. Ensure you’re calm and composed and that you have the support of everyone else in the family.

  • DO: Come from a place of caring, understanding, and support. 
  • DO: Offer your concern, make clear your support, but be firm about your rejection of drug use. 
  • DO: Avoid any distractions and pay close attention to what your child is saying. 
  • DON’T: Try to be confrontational or angry because of their actions.
  • DON’T: Talk to them if you’re not prepared to have that conversation. 
  • DON’T: Believe everything your child says. Trust your intuition. If you believe something isn’t right, you might be right. 

Can I Make My Child Go to Rehab?

In short, yes, you can — at least in Florida. Someone can be involuntarily admitted into a drug rehab facility if there’s reason to believe they have substance abuse. However, forcing your child to go to drug rehab might not solve the issue. Remember, drug rehab isn’t a 100% secure plan—over 60 people who go to rehab experience a relapse after leaving the treatment center.

Most of the time, forcing someone to go to a drug rehab center is the last hope. Ideally, it would be best if you tried to talk to your child and commit to treatment. When someone is ready to change and get better, the odds of a full recovery and relapse prevention are higher.

Finding Help

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. No parent should go through the anxiety and pain of seeing their child getting lost in drug abuse. Just as your children need help, you need assistance and support as well. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction specialists are here to provide support and guidance. 

From how to start having the conversation around drug addiction to helping them find the treatment they need, our team is here for you and your family. Together we’ll help you navigate this process so that you and your child can fully recover and live happy, healthy lives.

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